A new report claims to reveal what standards users of local public spaces and parks can expect in the future.
It follows a decision by the, then Labour led, Council in 2014 to lop £750,000 off maintenance budgets.
Volunteers have been keeping the Foxwood park tidy
This was partly reinstated by the incoming, coalition led, Council who restored £150,000 of the cut. Some of this was used in the last financial year to support local tidy up campaigns but no comprehensive list of the neighbourhood schemes that have benefited has been provided by the Council.
A new allocation of £100,000 is being divided between Ward Committees (Westfield will get £6872) while a central pot of £50,000 may be allocated to more formal parks and City centre spaces.
The Council is agonising over whether to let a third party voluntary group (like York Cares) manage this budget.
The report says that, “each ward has taken a variety of approaches to meeting their savings targets including community groups taking on the maintenance of existing planting schemes and undertaking litter collection, as well as using local knowledge to remove unnecessary tasks”.
Grange Lane park neglected by Council
In reality, the vast majority of residents know nothing about what is being done to manage the quality of public space maintenance in their neighbourhoods. No articles on options have appeared in local newsletters so only a handful of people even know that change has occurred.
The Council hasn’t even published a list of sites and the frequency of grass cutting that can be expected. No service level agreements (“Customer contracts”) have been published.
Bachelor Hill Access footpaths and steps badly eroded.
So improvements are required.
Some areas like the Foxwood Park have attracted volunteers to undertake clean ups, but others like the Grange Lane park have had minimal support.
Areas, like the former Lowfields school playing fields, are largely ignored by the Council.
One encouraging development is the promised reintroduction of Street Environment Officers who were ditched by Labour (they have been restyled as “Environment Community Officers”). The officers will recommence the work which – up to 2011 – had seen a major reduction in local eyesores.
However, we don’t think that the Council quite “gets it” yet.
Recently a Residents Association raised funds to have an interpretation board placed on a local amenity area. The board provided details of the (unique) history of the site.
They were told by one section of the Council that they would need planning permission for the board.
On approaching the Planning Department, they were told that they would need to pay £60 if they wanted advice on whether planning permission was required. If planning permission was needed, then a further £250 planning fee would be payable by the Association..
Several of these boards had been provided elsewhere by the Council – at taxpayers’ expense – without any application for planning permission being submitted.